UN to hold emergency meeting amid uproar over Israeli minister’s al-Aqsa Mosque visit

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The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday after an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a holy site in Jerusalem, provoking international condemnation.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, inflamed growing tensions on Tuesday and was widely viewed as provocative.

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Confrontations at holy sites in Jerusalem have in the past triggered wider conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The UN meeting was requested by the United Arab Emirates and China, a tweet from the UAE’s mission to the UN said. It will discuss “Israeli violations in Jerusalem and specifically Ben Gvir’s actions,” Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said in a separate statement.

“Ben Gvir’s storming of al-Aqsa is a dangerous escalation and provocation against our Palestinian people,” Palestinian factions in Gaza said in a statement earlier this week that called for an escalation in the West Bank in retaliation.

Ben Gvir leads the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party and draws support from the far right and ultra-orthodox communities. His backing was key to Netanyahu regaining power following elections in November after 18 months in opposition.

“The Temple Mount is the most important place for the Jewish people. And just as Muslims and Christians visit there, Jews have the right to go to the Temple Mount as well,” he said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s decision to lean on support from a number of once-fringe politicians whose stances on minority rights — particularly Arab-Israeli and Palestinian rights — has deepened domestic tensions and drawn rebuke from the US.

“We stand firmly for preservation of the historic status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday. “Any unilateral actions that depart from that historic status quo is unacceptable.”

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